Great opportunity for siblings of students with neurological differences!

August 30, 2013
Chelsea Budde

For more than six years, Good Friend has been spreading its message about autism awareness, acceptance, and empathy to those who surround students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Along the way, and within co-founder Denise Schamens' own family, the unique challenges that the siblings of children with ASD face have become more visible to us as an organization.  That made us especially grateful to the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin for hosting a Sibshop facilitator training event  by Don Meyer, director of the Sibling Support Project, last spring in Milwaukee.

Speaker and author Don Meyer is a pioneer in the sibling movement; he has been at its forefront for more than 25 years.  He recognized the unique concerns and strengths of siblings of children with special needs ("sibs") and decided to do something to support them.  Siblings benefit, he says, from getting to know other sibs, taking in some information, being able to ask questions, and sharing the experience – good, bad or indifferent.

Sibshops offers a model intervention for sibling support, learning and fun.  It recognizes and reinforces a strengths-based approach. It also promotes relationship building between sibs through a variety of games and activities.  They reflect a belief that brothers and sisters have much to offer one another – if they are given a chance.

Sibshops are good for the soul.  They enrich the lives of the group leaders, sibling participants, and families as a whole.  They heighten public awareness that sibs matter and should not be an afterthought when it comes to supporting families of people with disabilities.

Good Friend is proud to announce our collaborative effort with Carroll University to provide Sibshops to sibs ages 8-13, who have a brother or sister with neurologically-based differences (ASD, cognitive disability, mental health challenges, etc.).  This is not to say that other disabilities aren't equally worthy of Sibshops, but that Good Friend's expertise lies in this area.

Events for the 2013-'14 school year will be held at the beautiful Carroll University Center for Graduate Studies, located at 2140 Davidson Rd., Waukesha, Wis.  Dates are Saturday mornings, starting in October: Oct. 5, Nov. 2, Dec. 7, Jan. 11, Feb. 1, (no March event) April 5, and May 3.  Each workshop will be from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon, with a snack provided.  Registration fee is $15 per workshop or three for $30.  (In case of financial hardship that makes the registration fee prohibitive, please let us know.)

Please contact Denise Schamens for more info or to register for one or multiple dates!

Our mission power words are "Awareness Acceptance Empathy".  We teach peers in the schools to be good friends to someone with autism (and/or another brain-based disability).  Now it's time to be Good Friends to the sibs!  By educating, supporting and fostering friendships, we hope to help these precious children in their lifelong journey as Super Siblings!

We leave you with some insight from Super Sibs, as captured in Don Meyers' The Sibling Slam Book: What It's Really Like to Have a Brother or Sister with Special Needs (Woodbine House, 2005):

What life lesson have you learned from being a sib?

  • “To be understanding of other people’s difficulties, and have empathy for those who – through no fault of their own – are faced with enormous challenges, and to value each person’s unique attributes.” (Jenna H., 17)
  • “That no matter what I do he will always be there for me.  He’s my special light in the darkness; there when all other lights go out.” (Kathryn C., 14)

What’s the toughest thing about being a sib?

  • “Having to worry about the future of your sib.”  (Melisandre P., 14)
  • “I think it’s watching her fail.  The look in her eyes would send a full-grown man into tears.  Or her being denied opportunities that other kids have.” (Erin G., 14)
  • “Knowing that I will be able to do certain things someday that my sib probably won’t get to experience, like going to college, driving, or even living on my own.” (Emily P., 13)

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